History of New Brunswick

History of New Brunswick

New Brunswick ( _fr. Nouveau-Brunswick), is one of the three Maritime provinces in Canada, and the only officially bilingual province (French and English) in the country. The history of New Brunswick can be viewed according to four periods: pre-European contact, French colonization, British colonization and finally, New Brunswick since confederation.


The aboriginal nations of New Brunswick include the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy. The Mi'kmaq territories are mostly in the east of the province. The Maliseets are located in the northwest and the Passamaquoddy tribe is situated in the southwest, around Passamaquoddy Bay. Amerindians have occupied New Brunswick since about 6000-8000 BCE.


The Maliseet (also known as Wolastoqiyik and Malecite and in French as Malécites or Étchemins (the latter collectively referring to the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy)) are a First Nations people who inhabit the St. John River valley and its tributaries, roughly overlapping the International Boundary between New Brunswick and Quebec in Canada, and Maine in the United States.

Wolastoqiyik is the name for the people and their language; Maliseet is the name by which the Mi'kmaq described the Wolastoqiyik to early Europeans. "Maliseet" was a Mi'kmaq word meaning "broken talkers"; the Wolastoqiyik and Mi'kmaq languages are fairly closely related, but the name reflected what the Mi'kmaq perceived to be a sufficiently different dialect to be a "broken" version of their own language. The Wolastoqiyik so named themselves because their territory and existence centered on a river they called the Wolastoq, which simply meant "good river" or "beautiful river"; "woli" = good or beautiful, shortened to "wol-" when used as modifier; "astoq" = river; "-iyik" = people of, equivalent e.g. of "-ians" or "-ites". Wolastoqiyik therefore means simply People of the Beautiful River, in their own language. The Wolastoq River is the St. John River.

Before contact with the Europeans, the traditional culture of both the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy generally involved travelling downstream on their rivers in the spring, and back upstream in the autumn. When they had finished travelling downstream in the spring, they congregated in larger groups near the ocean, and planted crops, largely of corn (maize), beans, squash. In the autumn, after the harvest, they travelled back upstream, taking provisions, and spreading out in smaller groups into the larger countryside to hunt game during the winter.


The Passamaquoddy (Peskotomuhkati or Pestomuhkati in the Passamaquoddy language) are a First Nations people who live in northeastern North America, primarily in Maine and New Brunswick.

The Passamaquoddy lacked a written history before the arrival of Europeans but do have an extensive oral tradition. They maintained a semi-nomadic existence in the well-watered woods and mountains of the coastal regions along the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine and along the St. Croix River and its tributaries. They dispersed and hunted inland in the winter; in the summer, they gathered more closely together on the coast and islands and farmed corn, beans, and squash, and harvested seafood, including porpoise.

The name Passamaquoddy is an anglicization of the Passamaquoddy word peskotomuhkati, the prenoun form (prenouns being a linguistic feature of Algonquian languages) of Peskotomuhkat, the name they applied to themselves. Peskotomuhkat literally means "pollock-spearer", reflecting the importance of this fish. [http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/Maliseet/dictionary/index.php?command=listAlpha&letter=p] Their method of fishing was spear-fishing rather than angling.

The Passamaquoddy were moved off land repeatedly by European settlers since the 16th century and were eventually limited in the United States to the current Indian Township Reservation in eastern Washington County, Maine. The Passamaquoddy also live in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, and maintain active land claims but have no legal status in Canada as a First Nation. Some Passamaquoddy continue to seek the return of territory now comprised in St. Andrews, New Brunswick which they claim as Qonasqamkuk, a Passamaquoddy ancestral capital and burial ground.


The Mi'kmaq are a First Nations people, indigenous to the Maritime Provinces, the Gaspé Peninsula Quebec and northeastern New England. Míkmaw is the singular form of Míkmaq.

In 1616 Father Biard believed the Mi'kmaq population to be in excess of 3,000. However, he remarked that, because of European diseases, including smallpox and alcoholism, there had been large population losses in the previous century.

The Mi'kmaq were originally allies with other nearby Algonquian nations including the Abenaki, forming the seven nation "Wabanaki" (IPA|/Wɑbɑnɑ•ɣɔdi/) Confederacy; this was later expanded to eight with the ceremonial addition of Great Britain at the time of the 1749 treaty. At the time of contact with the French (late 1500s) they were expanding from their Maritime base westward along the Gaspé Peninsula /St. Lawrence River at the expense of Iroquioian Mohawk tribes, hence the Mi'kmaq name for this peninsula, "Gespedeg" ("last-acquired"). They were amenable to limited French settlement in their midst, but as France lost control of Acadia in the early 1700s, they soon found themselves overwhelmed by British (English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh) who seized much of the land without payment and deported the French. Later on the Mi'kmaq also settled Newfoundland as the unrelated Beothuk tribe became extinct.

Viking Exploration

It is generally accepted by Norse scholars that Vikings explored the coasts of Atlantic Canada, including New Brunswick, during their stay in Vinland where their base was possibly at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, around the year 1000. Wild walnut (butternut) shells found at l'Anse aux Meadows suggest that the Vikings did indeed explore further along the Atlantic Coast. Butternut trees do not now, nor 1000 years ago, grow in Newfoundland.

French Colonial Era

The first recorded European exploration of present-day New Brunswick was by French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1534, who discovered and named the Baie des Chaleurs between northern New Brunswick and the Gaspé peninsula of Quebec.

) at the site of present-day Bathurst on the Baie des Chaleurs. The whole region of New Brunswick (as well as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and parts of Maine) were at that time proclaimed to be part of the royal French colony of Acadia. The French maintained good relations with the First Nations during their tenure and this was principally because the French colonists kept to their small coastal farming communities, leaving the interior of the territory to the aboriginals. This good relationship was bolstered by a healthy fur trading economy.

A competing British claim to the region was made in 1621, when Sir William Alexander was granted, by James I, all of present-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and part of Maine. The entire tract was to be called '"Nova Scotia", Latin for "New Scotland". Naturally, the French did not take kindly to the English claims. France however gradually lost control of Acadia in a series of wars during the 18th century.

One of its provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, which formally ended the War of the Spanish Succession, was the surrender of peninsular Nova Scotia to the English crown. All of what would later become New Brunswick, as well as "Île St-Jean" (Prince Edward Island) and "Île Royale" (Cape Breton Island) would remain under French control.

The bulk of the Acadian population now found itself residing in the new British colony of Nova Scotia. The remainder of Acadia (including the New Brunswick region) was only lightly populated, with major Acadian settlements in New Brunswick only found at Beaubassin (Tantramar) and the nearby region of Shepody, Memramcook, and Petitcodiac, which they called Trois-Rivière, [Paul Surette, "Memramckouke, Petcoudiac et la Reconstruction de l'Acadie - 1763-1806" Mamramcook, 1981, p. 9] as well as in the St. John River valley at Fort la Tour (Saint John) and Fort Anne (Fredericton). To protect their territorial interests in what remained of Acadia, France, in 1750, built two forts (Fort Beausejour and Fort Gaspareau) on the frontier with Nova Scotia at either end of the Isthmus of Chignecto.

The final conflict between the British and the French in North America was looming. As part of the Seven Years' War (1756-63), the British extended their control to include all of New Brunswick. Fort Beausejour (near Sackville) was captured by an English force commanded by Lt. Col. Robert Monckton in 1755. The Acadian population from the Trois-Rivières region was subsequently expelled as was also the Acadian population from peninsular Nova Scotia. Some of the Acadians in the Petitcodiac and Memramcook region escaped into the woods and, under the leadership of Joseph Broussard (dit "Beausoleil"), were able to conduct guerrilla action against the British forces for a couple of years. Other actions included British expeditions up the St. John River in both 1758 and 1759. Fort Anne fell during the 1759 campaign and following this, all of present day New Brunswick came under British control. France ultimately lost control of all of its North American territories by 1760.

British Colonial Era

After the Seven Year's War, most of what is now New Brunswick (and parts of Maine) was incorporated as Sunbury County (county seat - Campobello) and was jurisdictionally included as part of the colony of Nova Scotia. New Brunswick's relative location away from the Atlantic coastline hindered new settlement during the immediate post war period; although there were a few notable exceptions such as the founding of "The Bend" (present day Moncton) in 1766 by Pennsylvania Dutch settlers sponsored by Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia Land Company. Other American settlements developed, principally in former Acadian lands in the southeast region, especially around Sackville. An American settlement also developed at Parrtown (Fort la Tour) at the mouth of the St. John River. English settlers from Yorkshire also arrived in the Tantramar region near Sackville prior to the Revolutionary War.

Significant population growth would not occur until after the American Revolution, when Britain convinced refugee Loyalists from New England to settle in the area by giving them free land. (It should be noted that some of the pre-existing American settlers in New Brunswick actually favoured the colonial revolutionary cause Fact|date=February 2007.) In particular, Jonathan Eddy and his "rangers" harassed and laid siege to the British garrison at Fort Cumberland (the renamed Fort Beausejour) during the early parts of the American Revolution. It was only after the arrival of a relief force from Halifax that the siege was lifted.

With the arrival of the Loyalist refugees in Parrtown (Saint John) in 1783, the need to politically organize the territory became acute. The newly arrived Loyalists felt no allegiance to Halifax and wanted to separate from Nova Scotia to isolate themselves from what they felt to be democratic and republican influences existing in that city. They felt that the government of Nova Scotia represented a Yankee population which had been sympathetic to the American Revolutionary movement, and which disparaged the intensely anti-American, anti-republican attitudes of the Loyalists. "They [the loyalists] ," Colonel Thomas Dundas wrote from Saint John, New Brunswick, December 28, 1786, "have experienced every possible injury from the old inhabitants of Nova Scotia, who are even more disaffected towards the British Government than any of the new States ever were. This makes me much doubt their remaining long dependent." [Clark 150-51] These views undoubtedly were exaggerated but there was no love lost between the Loyalists and the Halifax establishment and the feelings of the newly arrived Loyalists helped to sow the seeds for partition of the colony.

The British administrators of the time, for their part, felt that the colonial capital (Halifax) was too distant from the developing territories to the west of the Isthmus of Chignecto to allow for proper governance and that the colony of Nova Scotia therefore should be split. As a result, the colony of New Brunswick was officially created by Sir Thomas Carleton on August 16, 1784.

New Brunswick was named in honour of the British monarch, King George III, who was descended from the House of Brunswick ("Haus Braunschweig" in German, derived from the city of Braunschweig, now Lower Saxony). Fredericton, the capital city, was likewise named for George III's second son, Prince Frederick Augustus, Duke of York.

The choice of Fredericton (the former Fort Anne) as the colonial capital shocked and dismayed the residents of the larger Parrtown (Saint John). The reason given was because Fredericton's inland location meant it was less prone to enemy (i.e. American) attack. Saint John did, however, become Canada's first incorporated city and for a long time was one of the dominant communities in British North America. Saint John also found itself home to the American traitor Benedict Arnold; whose questionable local business dealings meant that the local Loyalists also came to despise him.

Some of the deported Acadians from Nova Scotia found their way back to "Acadie" during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They settled mostly in coastal regions along the eastern and northern shores of the new colony of New Brunswick. There they lived in relative (and in many ways self imposed) isolation as they tried to maintain their language and traditions.

The War of 1812 had little effect on New Brunswick. Forts such as the Carleton Martello Tower in Saint John and the St. Andrew's Blockhouse on Passamaquoddy Bay were constructed, but no action was seen. Locally, New Brunswickers were on good terms with their neighbours in Maine as well as the rest of New England. There was even one incident during the war where the town of St. Stephen lent its supplies of gunpowder to neighbouring Calais, Maine, across the St. Croix River, for the local Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations.

The northern Maine-New Brunswick frontier had not been defined by the Treaty of Paris (1783) which had concluded the Revolutionary War. Initially this situation was not problematic but by the 1830s competing lumber interests and immigration meant that a solution was required. The situation actually deteriorated sufficiently enough by 1842 that the Governor of Maine called out his militia. This was followed by the arrival of British troops in the region shortly thereafter. The entire debacle, referred to as the Aroostook War, was bloodless and thankfully, cooler heads prevailed with the subsequent Webster-Ashburton Treaty settling the dispute. Some of the local residents in the Madawaska region did not care much one way or the other as to who would actually win control of the area. When one resident of Edmundston was asked by arbitrators which side he supported, he replied "the Republic of Madawaska". This name is still used today and describes the northwestern corner of the province.

Immigration in the early part of the 19th century was mostly from the west country of England and from Scotland, but also from Waterford, Ireland often having come through or having lived in Newfoundland prior. A large influx of settlers arrived in New Brunswick in 1845 from Ireland as a result of the Potato Famine. Many of these people settled in Saint John or Chatham, which to this day calls itself the "Irish Capital of Canada". The newly arrived Catholic population often clashed with the existing Protestant residents, coming to a head with a gun battle in Saint John in 1849.

Throughout the 19th century, shipbuilding, both on the Bay of Fundy shore and also on the Miramichi, was the dominant industry in New Brunswick. The Marco Polo, arguably the fastest clipper ship ever built was launched from Saint John in 1851. Resource-based industries such as logging and farming were also important to the New Brunswick economy. From the 1850s through to the end of the century, several railways were built across the province, making it easier for these inland resources to make it to markets elsewhere. Moncton, previously a sleepy agricultural community and later a shipbuilding centre became the railway hub for the colony and later for the entire Maritime Provinces. Moncton would subsequently grow rapidly and challenge Saint John for economic dominance in the province.

New Brunswick since confederation

New Brunswick was one of the four original provinces of Canada that entered into Confederation in 1867. The Charlottetown Conference of 1864 had originally been intended only to discuss a Maritime Union of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, but concerns over the American Civil War as well as Fenian activity along the border led to an interest in expanding the geographic scope of the union. This interest arose from the Province of Canada (formerly Upper and Lower Canada, later Ontario and Quebec) and a request was made by the Canadians to the Maritimers to have the meeting's agenda altered.

Many residents of the Maritimes wanted no part of this larger Confederation, for fear that the region's needs would be overshadowed by those of the rest of the country. Many politicians involved - such as Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley; New Brunswick's best-known Father of Confederation found themselves without a seat after the next election.

Following Confederation, the naysayers were proven right and New Brunswick (as well as the rest of the Maritimes) suffered the effects of a significant economic downturn. New national policies and trade barriers that had been created as a result of Confederation disrupted the historic trading relationship between the Maritime Provinces and New England. The situation in New Brunswick was exascerbated by the Great Fire of 1877 in Saint John and by the decline of the wooden sailing shipbuilding industry. Finally, the global recession sparked by the Panic of 1893 significantly affected the local export economy. Many skilled workers lost their jobs and were forced to move west to other parts of Canada or south to the United States, but as the 20th Century dawned, the province's economy began to expand again. Manufacturing gained strength with the construction of several textile mills across the province and, in the crucial forestry sector, the sawmills that had dotted inland sections of the province gave way to larger pulp and paper mills. Nevertheless, unemployment remained relatively high and the Great Depression provided another setback. Two influential families, the Irvings and the McCains, emerged from the depression to begin to modernize and vertically integrate the provincial economy.

The Acadians, who had mostly fended for themselves on the northern and eastern shores, were traditionally isolated from the English speakers that dominated the rest of the province. Government services were often not available in French, and the infrastructure in predominantly francophone areas was noticeably less evolved than in the rest of the province. This changed with the election of premier Louis Robichaud in 1960. He embarked on the ambitious Equal Opportunity Plan in which education, rural road maintenance, and health care fell under the sole jurisdiction of a provincial government that insisted on equal coverage of all areas of the province. County councils were abolished with the rural areas outside cities, towns and villages coming under direct provincial jurisdiction. The 1969 Official Languages Act made French an official language, on par with English. Linguistic tensions rose on both sides, with the militant Parti Acadien enjoying brief popularity in the 1970s and anglophone groups pushing to repeal language reforms in the 1980s, led by the Confederation of Regions Party. By the 1990s however linguistic tensions had mostly evaporated.

ee also

*Aboriginal peoples in Canada
*British colonization of the Americas
*Canadian Confederation
*French colonization of the Americas
*Great Upheaval
*History of the Acadians
*History of Canada
*Indigenous peoples of the Americas
*Aboriginal communities in New Brunswick
*List of New Brunswick premiers
*List of New Brunswick lieutenant-governors
*Aboriginal place names in New Brunswick
*New France
*Territorial evolution of Canada


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